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Qatar: Lack of civil society space hinders work of human rights defenders, says new GCHR report

2016-03-03

There is a distinct lack of oppositional civil society and a dearth of human rights activism in Qatar, says a new report by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). The report, “Qatar, civil society and human rights: Lack of civil society space hinders work of human rights defenders”, is based on research and a mission to the country in December 2015. 

“Qatar is a country ruled by a monarchy with an unusually large immigrant population. It has been subject to significant criticism for its treatment of migrant workers and women as well as those who attempt to speak out against the state. In spite of these abuses there has been very little oppositional reaction from civil society in Qatar,” says the report. It will be released at the upcoming session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission this month (on 09 March 2016 at 17:00-18:00 in Room XXIV) together with the GCHR 2015 Annual Report.

The report discusses the human rights problems in Qatar, and highlights the need to expand the ability of civil society to address the current human rights concerns and sustain the environment for civil society engagement, both national and non-national. Human rights priorities identified in the report are migrant workers’ rights, women’s rights, freedom of expression and access to justice.

"There was an obvious need to highlight the experience of human rights defenders in Qatar, given the lack of information available. While people were happy to talk to me, the majority chose anonymity and many didn't feel comfortable being quoted for fear of the repercussions. That signals a serious problem," says James Mehigan, the author of the report, who carried out the mission to Doha and the follow-up research for the report.

The report concludes by drawing on the main findings and providing a set of recommendations to the government of Qatar, including to ratify international legal instruments, amending the cyber-crimes law and the related law to make it easier to form NGOs. In addition, it calls on the government to “amend its nationality laws to ensure security of residence status for all residents and prevent the use, or threat of use, of nationality laws as a means of stifling civil society.”

GCHR has been monitoring the human rights situation in Qatar since 2011. During that time it has received reports of a number of incidents involving the repression of human rights defenders due to their work in the country. Many were repressed and harassed for practicing their right to freedom of expression in all its forms including literature and art. 

Click HERE to download the full report in English. Arabic is also available on the GCHR website.